Close this search box.

How Long Does Intensive Outpatient Treatment Last?

picture of Joe Gilmore
Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

February 20, 2024 (Originally Published)

February 20, 2024 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

If you or a loved one are considering intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment, it’s natural to have questions like:

  • How long is IOP treatment?
  • How many hours is IOP treatment?
  • What is an IOP meeting?

At Renaissance Recovery, we specialize in the intensive outpatient treatment of all types of addictions and mental health disorders. Read on to learn more about the duration and scope of IOPs on the continuum of care for addiction treatment.

heart icon that is 2 hands holding

Need help getting addiction treatment?

What Is IOP?

An intensive outpatient program is a kind of treatment for addiction and mental health issues. It’s designed to help people learn how to stop their addictive behaviors and change their thinking. IOPs offer a structured therapy environment, providing a balance between significant clinical intervention and the ability for people to maintain their daily responsibilities at home, work, or school.

Intensive outpatient treatment differs from inpatient rehab (residential rehab) because it has no residential component. IOPs also different from traditional outpatient programs. A regular outpatient program involves attending one or two weekly therapy sessions, while an IOP is much more immersive – intensive outpatient programs must deliver at least 12 hours of therapy each week. How long does intensive outpatient treatment last, then?

image of people discussing what is an iop meeting

How Long Is IOP?

“How long is an IOP program” is a question with no fixed answer. IOPs usually take 8 to 12 weeks, but some people might need more time. These programs are flexible and adapt to meet each person’s needs. Typically, you should expect at least 90 days of treatment, but even this might not be enough.

For many people, IOP is a long-term process, sometimes lasting over a year. It’s not a quick fix, and the end of the program doesn’t mean the end of treatment. Oftentimes, people stay in IOP for several months before stepping down to a less intensive treatment level with fewer sessions. The most important thing is that everyone gets a treatment plan tailored to their unique needs.

IOP sessions are usually held three to five days a week. Each day, you’ll spend around two to five hours in the program, adding up to a minimum of 12 hours each week.

What Happens in Intensive Outpatient Program?

The type of care provided in an intensive outpatient program can differ depending on the facility and the provider, but it usually involves 12 hours of group and one-on-one therapy per week. Participation in a 12-step program is also often recommended. These therapy sessions are held at a drug or alcohol rehab center.

The group setting in IOPs is also a space where healthy interaction patterns are reinforced and a safe environment conducive to recovery is established. Those who are further along in their recovery journey can offer invaluable support and empathy to people who are just starting. Beyond this, group sessions act as a forum where therapists and group leaders can disseminate important information, impart new skills, and guide people through their recovery process.

IOPs typically include a variety of group sessions, each addressing different aspects of addiction treatment and recovery.

  • Skills-development groups: Focus on helping people practice specific behaviors in a controlled environment.
  • Psychoeducational groups: Provide emotional support while educating about addiction and its consequences, often encouraging the development of problem-solving skills and helping change ineffective belief systems.
  • Refusal training groups: Involve role-playing exercises to help people learn how to decline substance use effectively.
  • Relapse prevention groups: Concentrate on identifying triggers and high-risk situations, and on developing strategies to manage and avoid them.
  • Family groups: Explore the effects of addiction on personal relationships, offering strategies for mutual support and understanding among family members.

Individual therapy complements the group therapy sessions in IOP. While not the primary focus according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), it performs a vital role in addressing the specific challenges of substance abuse and the journey toward ongoing abstinence. In these one-on-one sessions, people have the opportunity to delve deeper into issues touched upon in group therapy, focusing more intensively on their personal struggles and progress.

This form of therapy is particularly beneficial for those who may not feel at ease discussing sensitive issues in a group setting, offering a private space to explore more personal aspects of their recovery journey. Individual therapy sessions are usually scheduled at least weekly, with the frequency often increased in the early stages of treatment. Individuals are paired with a dedicated therapist who works to build a strong, trust-based relationship, essential for effective communication and a successful recovery process.

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is a core aspect of IOPs, focusing on equipping people with skills to handle triggers and reframe unhelpful thought patterns that lead to maladaptive behaviors. CBT is especially effective in IOPs because people can immediately apply these new skills in their everyday environments.

Motivational therapies like MI (motivational interviewing) and MET (motivational enhancement therapy) are employed to address any hesitation or mixed feelings about treatment and behavior change. These methods are compassionate, acknowledging that the substance or behavior had a role in the person’s life, but they also actively encourage individuals to confront behaviors that do not align with their desired outcomes or values.

Renaissance Recovery logo representing learning about how long is iop

Get World-Class Intensive Outpatient Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

Research shows that intensive outpatient treatment can be equally effective as inpatient treatment for managing many addictions. If you or someone that you care about needs help tackling addiction to alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications, consider intensive outpatient treatment at Renaissance Recovery in Orange County.

By choosing intensive outpatient treatment at Renaissance, you can maintain your everyday commitments while engaging with weekday therapy sessions at our facility in Huntington Beach, CA.

Due to the unique nature of all addictions, you can access a personalized blend of therapies that may include:

For effective intensive outpatient treatment in Southern California, call 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

Close this search box.

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

Text a Recovery Expert

Text our team to get the help you need ASAP.

Close this search box.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.